The Atlanta City Council Sept. 21 formally adopted a resolution calling on the Development Authority of Fulton County to stop granting tax breaks to developers within city limits.
The resolution was introduced Sept. 8 by City Councilmember Matt Westmoreland. It is part of an ongoing controversy about where tax abatements are appropriate and what authority should cut bond-issuance deals that enable them.
The council resolution calls for such deals to be made only by Invest Atlanta, the city’s own development authority, and in accordance with a recently adopted city plan focused on policies to create middle-income jobs and affordable housing and to support small businesses.
“Tax abatements should be used to support projects committing to deeply affordable housing and projects in underserved neighborhoods in need of middle-wage jobs, grocery stores and other amenities,” Westmoreland said in a press release, almost repeating verbatim the resolution’s text. “Offering tax abatements in thriving parts of town discourages development in communities that need it the most. And it withholds needed funding for everything from police and fire services to street improvements and parks upkeep. Making up for that lost revenue falls to Atlanta homeowners and renters.”
Al Nash, CEO of the Fulton authority, previously said the resolution “does not tell the whole story” of benefits from tax abatement deals.
“During these unprecedented times, it’s even more important for us to look for ways to solidify and strengthen our partnership to ensure economic development continues within the city of Atlanta and Fulton County,” Nash said when the resolution was introduced.
Invest Atlanta itself last year told the Fulton authority to stop operating within the city, which it refused to do.
The heart of the controversy is that many abatements go to luxurious projects in such hot real estate markets as Buckhead and Midtown, where it appears that projects would be built without any incentive. The council resolution specifically cited the Fulton authority’s Aug. 25 approval of tax abatements valued at over $11 million for three projects, including two in the hot areas of Atlantic Station and the Atlanta BeltLine.
Correction: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect date for the City Council’s vote on the resolution and gave an incorrect title for Nash.